Q. I grew up in a very poor family and as a result I learned to be grateful for even the bare necessities of life. I've been able to give my children more than I had, but they seem to take everything for granted. Even though they're still young they're very materialistic and greedy. How can I teach my children to be grateful?
Teaching Children to be Grateful
We need to encourage gratitude in our land of plenty. Most of us forget how fortunate we are. A grateful attitude is good for our health. Cynicism, the opposite, is associated with disease. Gratitude is an inner feeling; it cannot be taught directly. It springs up, unbidden, within our hearts. However, there are many things we can do to encourage this feeling or attitude to flourish in the hearts of our children.
1. Be appreciative of every gift your children give you. Children often give gifts that are unnoticed. The dandelions picked and brought to Mom are a gift. The drawing proudly brought home from school is a gift. Parents who recognize these gifts will display them proudly and thank the giver. When we are too busy to notice their gifts we discourage a budding giver. If we criticize the gift because it isn't perfect we squelch the giver further.
2. Give praise to your children. Tell them specifically what unique and individual traits you appreciate about them; what you are grateful for in them. "I'm so glad you are friendly with others." "I love the way you smile." Your gratitude is a model which teaches them to also be appreciative.
3. Share your own gratitude with your children. Let your children see you wonder at the beauties of nature and the joys of human relationships. "My what a beautiful day this is!" "Doesn't this rose look and smell wonderful?" "Isn't Grandma a loving person?" Too often, all they hear us talk about are our problems in life, our aches and pains, or our criticisms.
4. Involve your children in a project helping others. They can contribute good used toys or clothing or part of an allowance to help a family in need at Christmas. Our gratitude is often sparked in contrast to those less fortunate.
5. Pray with your children. When your children say their prayers with you at night encourage them to think about what they’re thankful for each day. Accept whatever thanks they express, without criticism. Giving thanks at meals also teaches children to be grateful.
6. Develop thanksgiving rituals at meals, especially holidays. At Thanksgiving dinner you might have each member of the family name three things they are thankful for. You can also read thanksgiving messages in the Psalms.
7, Gratitude demands a receiver. Ultimately our gratitude is to God who gave us life and our world. Gratitude to God is modeled for our children every week in every church. If you want to teach your children gratitude, be active in your faith.
All of us need to remind ourselves to be thankful. In the hustle and bustle of "getting ahead" or even just "getting by" we forget to appreciate and be thankful for the things that mean the most to us; the things that give us meaning and purpose in life.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.” Psalm 106:1